by Vitoria Velez
Sunset on the Mamiraua River at the Mamiraua Reserve,
Brazil's largest protected area, in Amazonas State:
scientists are now eavesdropping on the forest's wildlife
highly sensitive listening devices
Scientists are deploying ultra-sensitive sensors in the Amazon to
collect images and sounds of the rainforest's rich biodiversity in
real time, in an effort to track preservation efforts.
The Big Brother-style Providence Project was launched two
years ago by French scientist Michel Andre of the Polytechnic
University of Catalonia and
Mamiraua Sustainable Development Institute
in northern Brazil.
"I want to help the
rest of the world understand the urgency of protecting the
Amazon rainforest and supporting conservation initiatives," says
Andre, who is director of the university's bioacoustic
drones have been used for years to quantify the number of trees
cut down every year," Andre tells AFP.
"But there is very little data about the diversity of species
living in and underneath the canopy. This gave us the idea of
using state-of-the-art technological tools to monitor
biodiversity on a large scale.
"Thanks to Providence nodes, we are collecting countless images
and sounds in the Mamiraua flooded forest areas," he adds.
"Those smart ears are sending the data in real time to my
laboratory where we are analyzing them with the help of the
local indigenous communities of Mamiraua and the biologists of
French bioacoustician and Michel Andre,
who leads a team creating a network of high-tech sound sensors
to monitor in real time the preservation
of biodiversity in the Amazon.
"Since the start of the project, 10 nodes have been deployed in
the reserve and over 40 species (birds, monkeys, insects, bats,
dolphins, fish) have been identified and monitored."
"We divided this
ambitious project into three phases," explains Andre.
"Phase one occurred in Mamiraua with 10 nodes distributed in
different areas to check that our system was able to work in
very harsh conditions.
"Now, we are in an intermediate phase between phase one and
phase two that started last December. We will deploy 10 of these
nodes in the
cloud forest in Bolivia called Madidi
and another set of 10 nodes in Xingu in Brazil," he adds.
"By 2021, we'll have 30 operational nodes in three different
areas of the forest.
fisherman on the Jaraua River
the Mamiraua Reserve, in Amazonas state,
"During this pre-phase two, we will also build eco-acoustics
indices that will help us to monitor the health of the Amazonian
primary forest ecosystems.
"Phase three is planned for 2025 with the ultimate goal of
whole Amazon rainforest with one thousand nodes deployed in
a 100 square kilometer (38 square miles) grid to be able to
study the impact of climate change and of human activities
on this unique habitat," Andre says.
"Phase one and
pre-phase two were funded by the
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
at a cost of $3.5 million. Phase two is estimated to be $8
million and phase three around $30 million.
"We still don't have funds for phases two and three."
aspect of Providence is to work side by side with the indigenous
communities as they are the
true guardians of the Amazon," says Andre.
A zogue zogue monkey (Callicebus torquatus)
fruits in a tree at the
Sustainable Development Reserve,
Amazonas State, northern Brazil
"They have a very
precious vernacular knowledge of the biodiversity that we need
to learn and understand.
"They have been involved from the very start in Providence so we
can share a common approach for conservation and reach our